UK Politics

Labour needs debate on MPs now, says Ben Bradshaw

Ben Bradshaw

Former Labour cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw has called on his party to set up a constitutional convention now to discuss English devolution.

He does not want his party to wait until after the next election, as Ed Miliband has suggested.

Mr Bradshaw called on his leader to address "the English question".

He said it was "unfair" English MPs could not vote on some Scottish matters, while Scottish MPs could vote on English matters.

But his solution was greater devolution within England.

Mr Bradshaw told the BBC: "I don't see any reason why there shouldn't be a constitutional convention now. In fact the Local Government Association supports such a move. Let's get on with it.

"Ed Miliband has to address it. It's the elephant in the room. He has to acknowledge there is a problem and use that as opportunity. This is a historic moment Labour must not miss."

'Disappointment'

Labour MP for Rochdale Simon Danczuk also wants his party leader to address English devolution in his speech on Tuesday.

At a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Manchester, he expressed "surprise" and "disappointment" that Mr Miliband had not had a set of proposals on English votes for English MPs, or an English parliament, ready in the event of a Scottish "No" vote.

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He said: "We should have struck while the iron was hot. I cannot understand why we did not have a decent offer to put out there to the people."

Speaking after the meeting, he said: "The problem that we have now is that Cameron came out soon after the Scottish referendum and set the terms of the debate. He put on the table what he thought should happen.

"Whether we agree with it or not, whatever we now say is judged against Cameron's proposals and so we are playing catch-up, we are on the back foot when we could have been on the front foot."

Off the record, a senior figure in the party confided that he felt Mr Miliband had mishandled his response. By stressing that there could not be swift action on English devolution, voters would hear the message "I am not interested", he said.

Instead, he believed, Mr Miliband should have sounded more positive but pointed out that the issue was much bigger than votes at Westminster. It would have to include giving more power to "the great cities" of England and he should have got on the front foot.

But former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy said his party should not rush into the reform of a constitution which had evolved in a 'haphazard way". He said: "Surely we now have time to reflect, at a slower pace than David Cameron would wish, through a constitutional convention."

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